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Turkish President: Khashoggi’s Death Was A ‘Planned Operation’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday offered more details of how Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed earlier this month, saying that it was likely a “planned operation.”

Khashoggi made an initial visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Sept. 28, Erdogan said. The team that planned his murder was subsequently notified and several members of the consulate staff were “rushed back” to Saudi Arabia, indicating that the planning likely took place there.

One day before Khashoggi’s disappearance, Erdogan continued, Saudi officials performed reconnaissance work in Istanbul and in a forest outside of the city.

A team totaling 15 Saudis, who flew into Istanbul on Oct. 1 and 2, met on the morning of Oct. 2 before Khashoggi’s arrival. The team removed the hard drive from the consulate’s security camera system, according to Erdogan. They all left Turkey within hours of arriving. Erdogan also confirmed that a “body double” dressed like Khashoggi was used following the murder.

The Saudi government had said that it had arrested a total of 18 people in connection with the incident. Erdogan confirmed that this group matches the list compiled by Turkish intelligence and pressed for suspects to be tried in Turkish courts.

Many questions remain unanswered, Erdogan added, namely who the team is that orchestrated the killing and where Khashoggi’s body is located. Yet he failed to address the supposed audio and video evidence in the Turkish government’s possession that shows the journalist was beheaded, dismembered and killed. 

The announcement comes amid international outrage over Khashoggi’s disappearance and subsequently confirmed death.

Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain papers needed for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée, who was waiting outside, alerted friends and authorities when he never emerged.

The journalist’s disappearance quickly pitted Turkish and Saudi authorities against one another with drastically different accounts of what happened. The Saudi government initially said Khashoggi left the consulate on foot shortly after securing the marriage document. The Turkish government immediately launched an investigation, and within days, authorities told U.S. intelligence and news outlets that evidence suggested Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered upon entering the consulate.

In a statement early Saturday ― more than two weeks after the journalist’s disappearance ― Saudi Arabia finally admitted Khashoggi was killed at the consulate. The kingdom’s official account, based on what it claimed to be an initial investigation, was that Khashoggi was killed when a discussion turned into a physical fight. A Saudi prosecutor announced the arrests of 18 people linked to the journalist’s death.

The kingdom’s statement came at the end of a week of reports suggesting the Saudi government was preparing to admit to a version of events that avoided directly implicating its powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.

It also followed a report from The Washington Post on Oct. 10 that MBS had personally ordered an effort to lure Khashoggi, who had been living in Washington, D.C., back to Saudi Arabia.

The claim that Khashoggi died accidentally contradicts intelligence Turkish officials have leaked to foreign media ― that he was drugged, beaten, killed and dismembered by Saudi officials who flew to Istanbul from Riyadh that day to carry out the operation. The agents reportedly included several senior Saudi officials and men with close ties to MBS.

A pro-government newspaper in Turkey last week reported it had obtained recordings that proved Khashoggi was tortured in the office of Mohammad al-Otaibi, Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Istanbul.

Turkey’s government has also told U.S. officials it possesses audio and video footage of the journalist’s killing, according to multiple news outlets.

Erdogan had remained largely silent in the weeks following Khashoggi’s disappearance, but on Sunday, he promised to “reveal” what Turkish investigators had learned about the journalist’s death.

“It will be revealed in full nakedness,” he said in a televised speech.

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